Thousands flee amidst military claim of stability in Philippines
Government troops check a vehicle evacuating residents from their hometown of Marawi city in the southern Philippines, as it drives past a military checkpoint in Pantar town, Lanao del Norte, Philippines May 24, 2017. Reuters

Thousands of household residents flee from Marawi City to avoid getting hit in the sporadic crossfire between government soldiers and members of the Maute militant group.

Despite the repeated military announcements that the situation is stable in Marawi City, thousands of Marawi locals boarded their private vehicles and moved out of the City heading towards Iligan City or the municipality of Malabang which they believed is safer. Iligan and Malabang are less than two hours drive from Marawi.

Khye Amerol, one of those moving out of Marawi said that they decided to move out Marawi after hearing loud sporadic exchanges of gunfire on Wednesday morning.

Local residents left their homes despite Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra called on his constituents to stay at home until the situation will normalize.

Security forces confirmed that the Maute militant group burned the St. Mary's Cathedral Church and two schools while three foot soldiers were also reportedly killed in the crossfire. A priest identified as Fr. Chito Suganob was reportedly taken as hostage by suspected Maute militants and warned the Philippine government to harm the priest if security forces continue to pursue them.

In Russia, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also relayed through his spokesman Ernesto Abella that he is declaring a Martial Law in Mindanao where he will fully function as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The president's office announced that he is declaring martial law in Mindanao to suppress lawless violence in the island region. Martial Law is a power granted by the Philippine Constitution to use military power to suppress rebellion. Duterte cut short his trip in Russia and is expected to arrive Manila tonight.

While in Russia, Durerte sought the assistance of Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide the Philippine government military weapons to crush terrorist organizations in the Southern Philippines.

Police authorities along with Philippine soldiers were about to serve a warrant of arrest to Abu Sayyaf Commander Isnilon Hapilon on Tuesday when they were reportedly ambushed by the Maute Group which sparked the exchanges of gunfire with Philippine troops.